INCHEON, South Korea – The showdown everyone was anticipating didn’t materialize for Thursday’s opening foursome matches at the Presidents Cup but a duel few expected will lead off on Day 1 at Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea.
International captain Nick Price led off with what many consider one of his team’s strongest pairings in Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama and U.S. captain Jay Haas countered with the power tandem of Bubba Watson and J.B. Holmes.
“Bubba sent me a text, ‘Me and J.B. could go.’ That was something we thought could be impressive. They both play a similar game,” Haas said of his opening pairing.
What won’t happen on Day 1 is the much-anticipated duel between Jordan Spieth and Jason Day, who traded titles and the top spot in the world ranking to close the season.
In Group 4, Haas dealt first and sent out Phil Mickelson and Zach Johnson. Price, knowing that the U.S. would then go with Spieth in the final match, instead sent Day with Steven Bowditch out to play Lefty and Johnson.
“I’m not going to put match ups out there that the media wants,” Price said before adding, “I wouldn’t do that right now.”
Instead, Spieth will pair with Dustin Johnson to play Danny Lee and Marc Leishman in the anchor match.
In the day’s second match, the South African duo of Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace will play Matt Kuchar and Patrick Reed; followed by Anirban Lahiri and Thongchai Jaidee vs. Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker, who went 0-1-3 as a team in four matches at last year’s Ryder Cup.
For the U.S., Chris Kirk and Bill Haas will not play on Day 1 and Sangmoon Bae and Charl Schwartzel, who was struggling with flu-like symptoms and spent much of Wednesday in his room recovering, will sit for the Internationals.
“I felt kind of bad that I had to bench [Bae], but I didn't want to split up any of the other teams that played yesterday and played well together,” Price said of the only South Korean player in this week’s field.
A format change for this year’s matches reduced the total number of points from 34 to 30, forcing each captain to sit two players on Days 1 and 2.